Tuesday, February 8, 2005



"No Time Left on Earth"
Rondo Brothers (Coup de Grace)

hip-hop album fails
to meet duo’s potential

It's not often a Hawaiian-inspired hip-hop album comes across my desk, but when it's made by a couple of San Francisco guys with the kind of credits Brandon Arnovick and Jim Greer have got, I had to pay attention.

The Bay Area duo are regular collaborators with Dan Nakamura, aka the mighty Dan the Automator, and have worked both in the studio and in concert with Nakamura on his projects like Dr. Octagon and Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Kool Keith), and Deltron 3030 and Lovage.

Besides also doing some high profile remix and score work for the National Football League, The Gap, Footlocker, Nike, Gatorade and Lucasfilm, they released late last year a debut album of exotica-laced hip-hop that is, for me at least, more of a curiosity from some albeit talented malihini.

Attractively packaged with art by noted graffiti artist Sam Flores, the Rondo Brothers have definitely been inspired by their trips to the islands, melding in some ukulele and most notably some lap steel, courtesy Tim Carter, that approximates that romantic island sound of decades gone by.

Carter is heard to best effect on more dreamy fare like "Evening to Remember" (with singer Latrice Barnett) and one of two of the better album tracks, "Stereo Pirate," as female singer Bob Byers relates her fevered dreams "lying awake on a concrete island" over a deep groove. (The other standout is "Whispering Reef," with Daryl Palumbo finding, ah, unity "underneath the coral tree" and an overheated fuzz guitar commenting.)

Two that may be more problematic for "us locals" is NYC rappers Golgo of Cardboard City and Double D exhortations on "Take Me Back," and how "the Hawaiian broads, they get the best of me," and a silly little thing called "Ukulele Poo-Poo Platter." "Poo-poo"!?! Puh-leeze!!

Other adventures in paradise include the ukulele-funk driven "King Kamehameha," and the goodtime "Hey Stewardess" and "Pineapple Wine." "Paradise Cove" is an interesting mix of tabla, shaker, backward guitar and French dialogue (?).

And some guy named Vernon Pinneau relates his 'shroom fever dream of meeting a "humanoid ghost" on a dark, remote beach over some ambient, slack key-like noodling.

If the Rondo Brothers make any future visits to Hawaii, here's hoping something more substantive musically will come of it.

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